Wind River

When US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) discovers the body of a friend of his departed daughter on the Wind River Indian Reservation, the FBI sends in rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen). She is so ill prepared for the oppressive and unrelenting climate, she has neither a hat or gloves. Her incredible lack of tenderness to the parents in pursuit of the facts is near heartless.  She is just steps away from blaming them for the death of their daughter when she employs Cory (who has deep ties to the community) as a tracker to hunt the predator that has robbed this family.

This film has so many strengths. Effective performances of quiet personalities in close up that are truly moving. The humanity in grief, loathing, sadness, and a need for revenge that routinely mark Taylor Sheridan’s films continue to work because he continues to cast a constellation of stars that each could hold their own films in one hand (Gil Birmingham and Julia Jones are phenomenal).  The unforgiving Wyoming winter, a character on its own, is exceedingly desolate and beautiful. The isolating landscape and snow is so thick and dampening they can swallow the spirit, bury hope, and cover almost any sin.

The raw emotion slowly amps the tension through each scene to lead to discovery with a gripping retribution. I haven’t seen as many Native and Indigenous actors in one film since Twilight and this creates more questions that I can’t silence.

Why are the heroes of Wind River white?

There is one Native police officer, Ben (played by Graham Greene), but much like Birmingham’s character in Hell or High Water, he is killed while protecting a white character before the end of the film (thankfully, unlike Hell or High Water, he isn’t the only character of color) and his death is not remarked upon. The people most affected by these disappearances and deaths that drive the film’s plot are Native American, yet they are nowhere to be found during the climax. Native people are the victims and grieving relatives, but never their own champions.

With an epilogue, the film attempts to address this very real and serious issue as no one knows exactly how many Native American women are missing. Why, when there is a captive audience who paid to be there, the film fails to provide any resources, name organizations, nor list any books or websites where the audience can educate themselves, I cannot fathom. In attempt to highlight what has been hidden Wind River and its creators erase and take half measures.

I often judge a film by asking myself if it achieved what it set to do and if, when compared to other films of its genre, can it stand alone? Wind River succeeds on the latter question, but mystifyingly fails the first.  Dear Reader, let me not fail you. Please read, share, and follow:

A Comprehensive Report on MMIW: The Curiously Different Tales of Violence against Indigenous Women On Both Sides of Turtle Island
Murdered and Disappeared Native Women
Crimes against Native American women raise questions about police response

Maria Jackson
Review by Maria Jackson
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